Kent teacher union OKs strike using ‘children as pawns,’ think tank says

Aug 24, 2022, 6:13 PM | Updated: Aug 25, 2022, 6:41 am
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Teachers within the Kent School District have voted to authorize a strike that would begin on the first day of school if the district and union bargaining team, Kent Education Association (KEA), don’t reach an agreement on a new contract by the end of bargaining on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

School is supposed to begin on Thursday, Aug. 25.

Kent teachers ready to strike if new contract can’t be agreed upon the first day of school Thursday

“It happens every fall,” said Liv Finne, Director of Education for the Washington Policy Center, on The Jason Rantz Show. “Every fall, children are used as pawns in a political game to get more money for the union.”

The union also passed a vote of no confidence in the Kent School Board and Superintendent Israel Vela. Vela took over the position this year after serving as the interim superintendent.

“It’s a secretive process, behind closed doors, that the taxpayers pay for whatever they ultimately decide, but we’re not involved in the process. We don’t know what’s going on. It’s really not the way it should be done,” Finne said. “The average typical teacher has received a $30,000 raise in the last few years across the state. And they’re now making pay-and-benefit packages worth $125,000, on average, and yet they close the schools. This is ridiculous.”

Teachers are estimated to earn 23.5% less than comparable college graduates across the nation, according to The Economic Policy Institute. The numbers are even worse in the Pacific Northwest, despite the recent salary increase, as Oregon-based teachers earn 29.4% less than their college-educated counterparts and Washingtonians earn 29.1% less.

“Charter schools don’t have unions and their teachers are fairly paid. They negotiate like other professionals with their bosses,” Finne said. “This introduction of the union into teaching has really degraded the profession. Teachers are not widgets on a factory line, and they should never have unionized back in the 60s. That’s really the start of the lowering of expectations in our schools from the union. It’s time to get the unions out of public education, let teachers negotiate with their administrators for fair pay, and everything would be better.”

Teachers at North Thurston High School have also stated they may take a strike vote next week. Tomorrow morning, they will march from North Thurston High to the district office for a demonstration. Their current contract expires at the end of the month.

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Kent teacher union OKs strike using ‘children as pawns,’ think tank says